In Vatican Insider on this first weekend of November, in place of what is normally the interview segment after the news and a Q&A, I offer a special look at some lovely traditions in Italy, a slice of life that is just a few days each year – holy days and holidays celebrated in big fashion, year after year. I look at the feasts of All Saints and All Souls and their celebrations all’italiana.

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on OUTSIDE THE U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: go to and write the name of the guest for whom you are serarching in the SEARCH box. Below that, will appear “Vatican Insider” – click on that and the link to that particular episode will appear.


Pope Francis on Friday morning celebrated an outdoor Mass at Rome’s Gemelli Catholic University Hospital to mark the 60th anniversary of its Faculty of Medicine and Surgery, named for the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The hospital and its University campus is one of the most important and internationally acclaimed care providers in Italy.

Francis in his homily reflected on the faculty’s name and on the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus to whom we dedicate the first Friday of the month.

He thanked the staff for the care he received there in July, and reflected on how devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus can help care workers be guided in their mission to heal and comfort the sick.

For the 60th anniversary of the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery, Sacred Heart Catholic University is donating basic necessity medicines to health facilities in Lebanon, Syria and Sudan through the almsgiver of the Holy See Cardinal Konrad Krajewski.


The Vatican announced today that Pope Francis will undertake a 5-day Apostolic Journey to Cyprus and Greece in early December, spending December 2 to 4 in Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus and journeying to Greece from the 4th to the 6th. In Greece he will visit Athens and Lesbos. The trip is upon the invitation of the countries’ civil authorities and Bishops’ Conferences.


Pope Francis visited the Vatican Apostolic Library Friday afternoon to inaugurate a new permanent exhibition area, and he urged the Church to bear witness to the importance of beauty and culture.

By Devin Watkins (vaticannews)

The Apostolic Library is opening up to the public for the first time with a dedicated space for temporary exhibitions of contemporary art.

Pope Francis inaugurated the new space on Friday evening, which was financed by the heirs of the American entrepreneur and philanthropist Kirk Kerkorian.

Beauty touches the soul
In a speech to participants in the event, the Pope reflected on the theme of beauty and how the Church must bear witness to the importance of beauty and culture.

“Beauty,” he said, “is not a fleeting illusion of an appearance or of an ornament; rather, it is born from the root of goodness, truth, and justice, which are its synonyms.”

He added that the human person needs both bread and culture, “which touches the soul, and which brings the human being to our most profound dignity.”

Pope Francis also encouraged the Apostolic Library to preserve the past while translating Christian history into new languages.

Humanity on its way
During his visit, the Pope also spent some time admiring a site-specific exhibition by Italian artist Pietro Ruffo. The exhibit goes under the title “Everyone: Humanity on its way.” It recalls the Pope’s encyclical Fratelli tutti, and turns part of the space into “a lush tropical forest.”

It offers a journey through historic artefacts from the Library, including charts and a 6-metre-long (19-6 feet) 17th century map of the Nile made by Evliya Çelebi, concluding with utopic and allegorical maps created by Mr. Ruffo.

Journey through human history and dreams
The exhibit, explained Don Giacomo Cardinali who oversees the new space, explores “non-geographical cartography.”

“Throughout the history of humanity,” he said, “people have used the representative power of the map not only to describe the objectivity of the Earth, but also our own interiority, ideals, journeys, discoveries, and convictions.”

Mr. Ruffo, he added, has put together an exhibit that will show the visitor “allegorical, theological, satirical, and sentimental maps, as well as maps of desire and of protest, of humanity’s dreams and desperation.”

In his speech, the Pope noted that humanity needs “new maps” in order to discover fraternity, social friendship, and the common good.

“A closed-off mindset is sterile and full of uncertainty,” said the Pope. “We need a new beauty which is not the usual reflection of the power of a select few but is a courageous mosaic of the diversity of all people.”

The temporary exhibition will be open to the public until February 25, 2022 every Tuesday and Wednesday from 4 to 6 PM. Tickets can be purchased at the website of the Apostolic Library.

Space for culture of encounter
According to Cardinal José Tolentino de Mendonça, Archivist of the Apostolic Library, the new exhibition space is meant to promote a culture of encounter.

“One expects such a large library to help realize what Pope Francis has prophetically called a ‘culture of encounter’,” said the Cardinal. “It is a place where books encounter readers to trace new paths, where knowledge preserved as memory may encounter the questions that modern life asks of us, and where history encounters the present, opening up new perspectives not only on what we have been but also on what we can become.”



I had such a singular experience this morning that I felt I had to write about it.

I had an appointment in the Vatican’s medical center with an orthopedic surgeon for a reading of an MRI and for an update on the fractured vertebra I’ve been living with for two months. October was a very trying time but over the last month, the pain diminished a bit every week and Monday I felt as close to normal as I have in two months but I will still quite anxious about the MRI results. The written report accompanying the CD of the MRI was quite lengthy but in medical terms I did not understand at all.

I called a taxi, even though on foot I could reach the Vatican’s Sant’Anna entrance in probably 10 minutes or less. I’ve been very careful as walking has been tough, thus taxis have pretty much been my mode of transport.

I gave the driver the Sant’Anna address and said we could enter Vatican City as I had a Vatican ID. On the way, I jokingly said it would have been closer for me to walk but I was being careful because of a painful back issue. He asked what was wrong, I replied “a fractured vertebra” and he said “that must be so painful.” I said I was improving and would see a doctor this morning.

A few minutes later he asked if I was a believer (I’m sure it was related to the fact I was going to the Vatican), and I said, yes, I’m a practicing Catholic. He turned and smiled and said, “then you believe in the power of prayer to heal. That prayer can heal as well as – or perhaps even better than – doctors.”

I said I totally agreed and that I try to end my prayers, especially of supplication, with “God willing!”

A few minutes later, we entered Vatican City and I directed him to the medical center. When he stopped, he turned around and asked if it would be OK to pray together for my healing! He asked my name and then he prayed, asking the Lord to send the Holy Spirit on me to heal me and watch over me. He then prayed that “the doctor will be amazed at how Joan has healed.”

He said this with a bowed head and with such conviction, I was speechless! I said “God bless you today and always.” He smiled, saying “have a great day” and pulled away.

I think I stood outside for a minute, pondering this amazing encounter.

Half an hour later, after Dr. Buzzelli had studied the MRI documents and CD and made me do some movements and asked questions, he had a broad smile and said, “The fracture has clinically healed!” He said healing will continue, mentioned some limitations and then prescribed medicine to strengthen bones.

I asked if I could have a minute of his time to share an amazing story. At the end, he said he knows so many wonderful people that what this driver said did not surprise him!

If you saw it, on Thanksgiving Day I wrote: “Dear Lord, how have you blessed me? Let me count the ways…..Listing some of those ways, I wrote: “Does a day pass that You do not bring some unique, new person into my life? The newest member of my wonderful, large family? A friend from another country? Another wonderful seminarian or priest added to the many who have made my life and my faith so fulfilling? The list is so very long!

“Does a day pass that I am not enriched and blessed by some amazing event that You placed in my path as a learning moment, a time of prayer, a period of silent Thanksgiving?”

I can only say “Amen.”


Pope Francis on Tuesday paid a surprise visit to the Vatican Apostolic Library.
As you can see in the photographs published on the Library’s official Twitter account @VaticanLibrary, the Pope was accompanied by Archbishop José Tolentino Calaça de Mendonça, Archivist of the Vatican Secret Archives and Librarian of the Vatican Library, and by the Prefect of the Library, Monsignor Cesare Pasini.

If you want to tour the library, click here:

I learned about the visit when I stopped by to say hello to a gal I know who has a great store just outside the door to my building. As Emanuela and I were chatting, a couple stopped by to share some good news. Their daughter Federica, who lives in my building and has a top position in the Vatican Library, had told them about the papal visit and they shared that news with us and thus we heard about it before it was published.


Apologies for the fact that the link to OWL in my story yesterday about the Vatican Apostolic Library did not work. I had tested it and for some reason it worked for me but when I went back to my piece today, I could not access it either.

OWL means Online Window into the Library and you can access it here:


A few days late but here is the papal prayer intention for the month of August:

Pope Francis has released a video message with his monthly prayer intention for August:: “That artists of our time, though their creativity, may help us discover the beauty of creation.”

The text of the video message: The arts give expression to the beauty of the faith and proclaim the Gospel message of the grandeur of God’s creation. When we admire a work of art or a marvel of nature, we discover how everything speaks to us of Him and of His love. That artists of our time, though their creativity, may help us discover the beauty of creation.

The worldwide Apostleshièp of Prayer develops these intentions for Pope Francis. For decades it was traditional for Popes to have two monthly prayer intentions – a general intention and a missionary one. Pope Francis has changed that, creating only one intention for each month and releasing it with a video.



In the coolness of the air-conditioned Paul VI Hall, on yet another day of scorching temps in Rome, Pope Francis presided at the weekly general audience and began by noting, “in our continuing catechesis, we now consider God’s mercy as the driving force of Christian hope.”

He said, “when Jesus forgives the sinful woman, his action causes scandal, because it overturns the dominant attitude of the time.  Instead of rejecting sinners, Jesus embraces them, those who are outcast, ‘untouchable’.  With a compassion that literally causes him to tremble in his depths, he reveals the merciful heart of God. This astonishing attitude to those in desperate situations, even those who have made many mistakes in life, marks our Christian identity with the stamp of mercy, and gives a sure foundation to our hope.”

Francis explained that, “we who have experienced God’s forgiveness should avoid the danger of forgetting that this mercy was purchased at a great price: Christ’s death on the Cross.  Our Lord died not because he healed the sick, but because he did what only God can do: forgive sins.  This divine mercy both transforms us and renews our hope.  Our Lord, who rejects no one, graciously bestows upon us the mission to proclaim his mercy to the world.”


At the end of the general audience on Wednesday; pope Francis once again pleaded for an end to “every form of hatred and violence,” most especially “in places of worship, where the faithful gather to pray.”

He was referring to an attack on Catholics attending Sunday Mass in southern Nigeria and to recent violence against Christians in the Central African Republic.

The Holy Father said he “remains deeply saddened by the massacre, which took place last Sunday in Nigeria inside a church, where innocent people were killed.” At least 13 people were killed and 26 others were wounded when gunmen opened fire on worshippers at St. Philip’s Catholic Church in Ozubulu near the city of Onitsha.

The Pope then added, “unfortunately, news has arrived this morning of violent homicides in the Central African Republic against the Christian community,” and said such attacks on places of worship should cease. “I hope that all forms of hatred and violence cease, and may such shameful crimes not be repeated, especially those perpetrated in places of worship, where the faithful gather to pray.”

He asked the faithful at today’s audience to remember their brothers and sisters in these countries in prayer, and then led the faithful in reciting the Hail Mary.


What do the Vatican Apostolic Library and an OWL have in common?

The answer comes in the latest email missive from Msgr. Cesare Pasini, prefect of the Vatican Apostolic Library. OWL is just wonderful, and ever so instructive, if you are fan of libraries in general and the Vatican Apostolic Library in particular:

Dear Friends,

I am sending you the link to the second edition of OWL, the Official Newsletter of the Vatican Apostolic Library. OWL means Online Window into the Library

In this edition: – The Real “Hidden” Treasures of the Vatican Library: Palimpsests – The Dialogue of the Vatican Apostolic Library with Artists – Ninety Years since the Beginning of the Library’s “American Experience” – “Terra mariana”: the President of Latvia’s Visit to the Vatican Library – The Royal Family of the Netherlands Visit the Apostolic Library – An Encounter with Russian Librarians

Enjoy your summer reading!


Is it hot where you are? It certainly is in the Eternal City!

This is the time of year when I say extra prayers for all the men and women religious who have to don religious habits, even if some are made of lighter material, but there is always a layer or two, a black suit jacket for priests, long skirts and dresses for the sisters, etc.

These days in Rome, if there is a square foot of shade somewhere, someone will be standing in it. It might be the shade of a tree or the colonnade in St. Peter’s Square or the shady side of a street. It might even be a light post that casts a very slim shadow on a sidewalk – a shadow perhaps 12 inches across but if you see this at or near a bus stop, you will see 4 people standing on that shadow to get out of the sun! Saw that a few days ago and I should have taken a picture!

At one bus stop near my home there are two small trees that create some shade and it is amazing how many people can fit into that space! Whenever I see that I think of the words on the state of Liberty: “…. give me your huddled masses!”

But on to cooler topics….


Hopefully, as you listen to my news wrap up and weekly interview on “Vatican Insider,” you are in a cool setting! My guest this weekend is Deacon Dan Borne of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He was in Rome for the Jubilee of Deacons with his wife Lissette who was, by the way, a reader at the papal Jubileee Mass!

Dan and Lissette are friends and they were at my house when I hosted a mini-Jubilee for four permanent deacons and their wives. We talk about that get-together, about who and what a deacon is, what deacons do, what they cannot do, etc. Really worth tuning in!

At the mini-Jubilee – with Deacon Harold –


Here’s the other hat that Dan wears – announcer at LSU Tigers football games!



As you know, in the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio. If you live outside the U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:00 am (Eastern time). On the SKY satellite feed to the UK and parts of Europe, VI airs on audio channel 0147 at 11:30 am CET on Saturdays, and 5:30am and 10pm CET on Sundays. It’s also available on demand on the EWTN app and on the website. CHECK FOR YOUR TIME ZONE. Past shows are in VI archives:


Reproductions of rare Vatican manuscript to be presented to project donors

I think this is such an interesting story that I wanted to share it with you. I went to the site and found the English version:

Definitely something to follow. By the way, the Vatican Library Twitter account is:  – Library English-language website is:×668

The Twitter account tells you that the Library is open until July 15 and then closes for a month. Not many offices in the Roman Curia close for an entire month but curia staff generally take (are given!) fairly long vacations during those months and activity is greatly reduced in many offices. When I worked at VIS, there were so few of us on staff that even one person taking their annual vacation caused work burdens on the others. It thus made good sense to close for the entire months of August when Popes were usually on vacation in Castelgandolfo and the work rhythm was reduced.

The full article is much longer ( I’ve chosen to highlight just a few paragraphs.

TOKYO & ROME–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The Vatican Apostolic Library, Digita Vaticana, NTT DATA Corporation and Canon Inc. today announced their agreement to present special faithful reproductions of a rare 1,600-year-old manuscript to the first 200 people/organizations who donate 500 euros or more to support an ongoing project that is using NTT DATA technology to digitally archive thousands of manuscripts at the Vatican Library. The reproductions will give the beholders the impression of looking at the original masterpiece. Donations should be made to Digita Vaticana (, a nonprofit organization that raises funds for the Library’s digitization project. Beginning today, reproductions, certified by the Library, can be booked by making a donation, and Digita Vaticana will distribute this special gift to donors and supporters of the project in September.

About the Digital Archiving Project of the Vatican Apostolic Library

In April 2014, the Vatican Apostolic Library and NTT DATA began working on the project of digitally archiving manuscripts of the Library, with plans to digitize approximately 3,000 handwritten manuscripts by 2018. The Library’s overall project is intended to digitally archive all manuscripts preserved in the Library, amounting to some 82,000 manuscripts and 41 million pages. High-definition images are observable at the Library’s website, DigiVatLib (, using a special viewer built with NTT DATA’s digital archive solution technology, AMLAD™. On May 17, 2016, the website was renewed to provide access to the Library’s full archive of digitized manuscripts and incunabula. DigiVatLib complies with the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF), an open standard for easy access by researchers worldwide.

About the Vatican Apostolic Library

The Vatican Apostolic Library, also known as the “Popes’ Library,” is located in Vatican City. It was founded by Pope Nicholas V Parentucelli (1447-1455) in the Palace of Popes. In the late 16th century it was moved to the Sistine Hall by Pope Sixtus V Peretti (1585-1590), on the top floor of a new building built to delimit northward the Belvedere Court. The current seat, which began with Pope Leo XIII Pecci (1878-1903), includes adjacent buildings into which the Library was expanded to accommodate additional acquisitions and donations during its long history. The Library documents the history and thinking of humankind through arts and literature, mathematics and science, and law and medicine, from the early Christian era to the present day. It encompasses works of numerous languages and cultures ranging from the Far East to pre-Columbian America. The collection encompasses 82,000 manuscripts, 100,000 archival units, 1.6 million printed books (including 8,700 incunabula printed before 1501), 400,000 coins and medals, 100,000 prints, drawings and matrices, and 150,000 photographs.

About Digita Vaticana

Digita Vaticana Onlus is a non-profit organization founded in 2014 to promote the conversion of 82,000 Vatican Library’s manuscripts into digital format. It conducts fundraising activities to support this digitization initiative, and it is developing communication channels to disseminate and articulate the immeasurable value of these irreplaceable historical documents. For details, and to book a limited-edition copy of the reproduction, visit